The Testaments — Review

I have always been a huge fan of dystopian novels, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorites. The Hulu show is a phenomenon and does an excellent job of staying true to the book in the first season.

I re-read The Handmaid’s Tale in anticipation of The Testaments‘ release. I was absolutely chilled to see how many parallels there are to today, so this novel still feels timely and well worth a re-read for you prior to your reading of the sequel. I think, however, if you’ve seen the show, you’ll understand what’s going on.

The novel has three different narrators: Aunt Lydia, Agnes, and Daisy. Agnes was brought up in Gilead as a young girl, and we are seeing what the world looks like from an insider’s perspective. Daisy is in Canada, and we see what an outsider thinks about what Gilead is doing. Finally, through Aunt Lydia’s perspective, we see how Gilead was founded and how she got into her position of power. All three perspectives work together, as well as the knowledge you have from The Handmaid’s Tale, to paint a clear picture of the horrors that exist in Gilead.

Atwood’s writing is phenomenal. I found my breath taken away by quite a lot of her words.

β€œWhere there is an emptiness, the mind will obligingly fill it up. Fear is always at hand to supply any vacancies, as is curiosity. I have had ample experience with both.”

Margaret Atwood

The Testaments is absolutely worth all of the hype that it has been getting. It answered so many of the questions that I had about the different lives of different types of women, other than handmaids, in the society of Gilead. It wove in the novel & some of the main threads from the Hulu show in such a beautiful and thoughtful way. 5/5 stars

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August Wrap-Up!

I read 7 books this month! And for the first time, I tracked my reading by pages per day in my Bullet Journal. I read 2903 pages for an average of 93 pages per day! Do you track your pages read?

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I use a square-gridded Leuchtturm1917 for my bullet journal.
  • The Shark Club: review here! 4/5 stars.
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I LOVED this novel of 1940’s New York City! Our main character Vivian takes on a job at her aunt’s low-budget theatre after dropping out of college. She meets a lively cast of characters at the Lily Playhouse and this novel is all written as Vivian looks back on her past and how she learned what life was all about. 4/5 stars.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I LOVED the first 70% of the book. The last 30% didn’t even need to exist for me. Donna Tartt is a phenomenal writer, and truly I think that she needed a better editor for this novel. Just way too long for the story it told. The movie comes out later in September, and I hope it does a better job of editing. Trailer here. 3/5 stars.
  • Small Animals – Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks: Review here. 4.5/5 stars.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: This was my first read from this instagram famous author duo, and it didn’t disappoint! Olive is her sister’s maid of honor, and her groom’s brother, Ethan, really doesn’t like Olive. However, Ethan and Olive are the only two people at the wedding who don’t get food poisoning, and the newlyweds insist they take their all-expenses paid honeymoon to Hawaii. Hijinks & romance ensue. 4/5 stars.
  • The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood: Review here. 5/5 stars!
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai: This was an absolutely beautifully written novel about the AIDS crisis in late 1980’s Chicago and a mother’s love in 2015. Such amazing characters that were heartbreaking to read about, but you couldn’t help but love. 5/5 stars.

What was the best book YOU read this month?

The Reckless Oath We Made

One of August’s Book Of the Month* choices was The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood. I’ve been anxiously awaiting her next book since I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things in 2017, after it won BOTM’s Book of the Year prize for 2016. It’s a controversial book, but done so, so beautifully. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly suggest picking it up!

The Reckless Oath We Made is about Zee, a woman who has just been dealt a bad hand at life, and is trying to hard to earn enough money so she can live with her sister, LaReigne, and help take care of her nephew, Marcus. Zee meets Gentry, a man with autism who hears voices and is convinced he is a knight, while at physical therapy, and they form a very strange friendship. LaReigne is taken hostage from the prison where she volunteers, and Zee has no choice but to depend on Gentry to help her in her quest to save her sister.

The book is written from multiple characters’ perspectives, though we mostly hear from Zee. We also hear from Gentry, and he not only speaks with everyone in Middle English, but he thinks in Middle English! It does take some getting used to, but you’ll quickly realize that Gentry’s odd mannerisms and different perspective are a welcomed break after the difficult, messy, and really tough stuff Zee & Gentry encounter on their quest. This book is HEAVY, and Gentry is a breath of fresh air. His devotion to Zee is endearing and captivating, while Zee’s acceptance of Gentry’s every quirk is tender and sweet.

I absolutely loved this story of loyalty, love, and family. It contained heavy themes like drug use and abuse, white supremacy, and family members in prison, among others, so be aware of this as you begin your reading. I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars — I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS: You still haven’t signed up for Book of the Month? Click here to learn more!

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I know. I just BLEW YOUR MIND by writing that title. If you’re a parent, you know how hard it can be. If you are a friend of a parent, just check on them every once in a while – and bring caffeine πŸ˜‰ Luckily, two GREAT books on parenting came out today to help you with the hardest job in the world.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids by Dr. Carla Naumburg is a practical guide for parents who are looking to add a little more calm into their interactions with their children. I really appreciated how Naumburg spent the whole first chapter making it clear that parenting is hard, and we ALL lose it with our kids. One of the main points of her book was how important it is to reflect on what makes you lose your sh*t as a parent, and how to avoid or reduce these triggers. She also has an entire chapter about how to rebuild relationships with your kids after the ‘sh*tstorm.’ Finally, I really appreciated the summarizing lists and tools in the back of the book as a quick guide to remind you of some possible triggers to address when you’re feeling stressed and to take a moment to take a deep breath before you lose your sh*t. Thank you to Workman Publishing for the ARC of this book!

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks examines how it became so, so difficult to be a parent. It all started Kim left her four-year-old son in the car while she ran into Target for a few minutes, a stranger videotaped it and called the police, and Kim found herself in a legal battle, trying to prove she was a ‘good mom.’ Throughout the two years of her legal troubles, she spoke to lots of other parents who were demonized for letting their children walk to the park, or ride the subway alone, or sit in the car for a few minutes. The book touches on race & class, on gender roles, and how the task of parenting became such a competition. She weaves in personal anecdotes & expert opinions seamlessly and made it a super informative & enjoyable read, and I want to thank Flatiron Books for the finished paperback copy.

Post-it flags = GOOD STUFF INSIDE!

As a mom with anxiety myself, I found myself marking up the texts in both books so often that I needed a stack of Post-Its to flag pages as entire sections of chapters would resonate deep in my soul. I think I’ll be handing over both books to my husband so we can be more unified in our parenting approach and have some discussions about how we want to raise our son. I want to photocopy off some sections from Small Animals, especially where Brooks talked about the pressures of having new mom anxiety, for members of my family to help them understand what my brain’s been going through as a SAHM for the past 15 months, because she said so many of my things so much more eloquently than I could ever attempt. I think these books are both great for parents of kids at any age, and I think certain elements will resonate with different parents at different developmental stages. Please let me know what you think of these books!

What a great helper I have πŸ˜‰

The Shark Club — Review

I purchased The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor (daughter of The Secret Life of Bees author Sue Monk Kidd) on a whim, when I was attracted to its bright teal cover on the tables of the Harvard Book Store Warehouse Sale. I read it during “Shark Week” because I knew that even though I wouldn’t be watching any shark documentaries on the Discovery Channel, but still wanted to fit in! πŸ˜‰

This novel follows Maeve, a marine biologist who is often called a ‘shark whisperer.’ She’s just finished a research stint studying lemon sharks off the coast of the Bahamas with her attractive colleague Nicholas, and before heading off for a months-long research position in Mozambique, she heads home to Palermo Island, FL for a little break. She and her twin brother Robin were orphaned as young kids and went to live with her grandmother at her hotel, The Hotel of the Muses. When she arrives back home, she runs into a sweet & precocious young girl named Hazel — who turns out to be the daughter of her ex-fiance Daniel, newly hired as the chef at the hotel. Maeve also learns of an illegal shark-finning operation in the area and wants to get to the bottom of it, providing a little mystery in the story.

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Lemon shark

I loved EVERY character in this book — they were all really multi-dimensional and the author did an amazing job of giving enough of the characters’ background to really make the reader care about them. Additionally, the hotel itself was also a character — it was full of wacky art & literary-themed rooms.

I really enjoyed this book that was filled with a gorgeous setting full of beaches & beautiful blue waters. There was a little bit of romance, a little mystery, and a lot of heart. If you’re looking for a book to transport you to the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I’d suggest grabbing this one! 4/5 stars!

Revisiting “The Help”

Sometimes when I can’t fall asleep, I use my eReader with a backlight to revisit some old eBooks I have on there. One night recently, I re-opened The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Now I want to preface this with a few things:

  • I am a cis-het white woman and admittedly have a lot of privilege
  • I traveled to Ghana in college, around the time I first read this book, and voluntourism was part of this trip
  • I have previously worked as an Americorps Teaching Fellow & Teach for America Corps Member, and have spent some time grappling with my feelings as a white woman teaching POC.

I could not finish this re-read. I read the first few chapters, and I was upset. The author is a white woman who is attempting to use AAVE from the South in the 1960’s and it’s just narrative blackface.

There are A LOT more people discussing thing that are POC, and it’s more important to listen to their voices on the topic than just another white woman’s. Here are some links that helped me change my Goodreads review on The Help from a 4.5 to a 1 star.

  • The Feminist Wire: Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help
  • Shrink Tank: White Savior Films: The Psychology Behind the Problematic Film Trope
  • Take it from Viola Davis, who has regrets about her role in the film

Again, I’m a white woman and know that I’m coming from a place of privilege. I just wanted to point this out, and commit myself to reading some more novels about & written by POC.

Some recent novels by authors of color that have been phenomenal:

  • The Hate U Give & On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

Some novels HIGH on my TBR, that I’m committed to reading before the end of 2019:

  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  • My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Dear Martin, Nic Stone
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Mothers, Brit Bennett

July Wrap Up!

I had a great time reading this month — 8 books, including 3 completely during one week for The Reading Rush!

  • Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – I knew this was a super popular YA fantasy novel and I wanted to see what the hype was about! There was lots of magic, a little romance, and some badass female characters. However, I found the world a little difficult to get into and it was a little too long for me. Looking forward to the sequel coming out this fall! 4/5 stars
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – blog post here! I think this was my favorite book of July! 5/5 stars
  • The Escape Room by Megan Goldin – blog post here! I loved this thriller and think it’s a perfect escape read to bring on vacation with you! 4.5/5 stars
  • The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger – While I had to make a little post-it family tree at the beginning (lots of characters!) I found this novel FASCINATING. It touched on issues of race, class, privilege and educational inequality. My education-minded self was fascinated by how this all played out between the families and all of the many little strings all wove together beautifully at the end. 4.5/5 stars
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff – anything by Lauren Groff is bound to be beautifully written, which this ABSOLUTELY was. The story is about Bit, born and raised in a commune in the 1970s, and his life after leaving the commune. There was an odd subplot at the end, but otherwise this novel was a dream. 4.5/5 stars
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – This was a really readable novel that was fast-paced and well-written. The author clearly did TONS of research on the real-life monster Georgia Tann and wove it wonderfully with a cast of fictional characters during the Great Depression & present day. 4.5/5 stars
  • The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess – This was a beautifully written book about books & Cape Cod in the summer of 1987. The story follows Eve works in publishing, but is passed over for a promotion so she decides to assist a famous writer on Cape Cod for the summer. She is a fun character, and the setting is described beautifully. A very quick, but fun, read! 4.5/5 stars
  • One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus – I saw a poster for this book and the tagline said something about The Breakfast Club + murder. This was a fast-paced fun read about a group of high schoolers that need to solve a murder after 5 kids walk into detention and 4 walk out. So many secrets are revealed & it was a quick and fun read! 4/5 stars
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